I wonder what the buzzword of 2013 will be. Will it contine to be “big data” or will something else come along in its place? Until the next expression is upon us, one thing is clear: I am astounded at the level of ubiquity the expression “big data” has reached, especially when you consider how 2012 saw NPR vote the term “word of the year”  and even BBC Radio 4 discussed the subject on its highbrow news program “Today”. Furthermore, in October 2012, analyst company Gartner published a market forecast in which they claim that the term “big data” is now so commonplace that it can refer to any part of the IT industry. The report then went on to say that “big data” would drive $28 billion of IT spending worldwide in 2012, rising 21% to $34 billion in 2013. These are staggering numbers.
But just who is empowered to capitalize on the continued “big data” phenomenon? If you believe Gartner again, businesses face a problem, one that will only get worse as data volumes and analytic workloads increase: there is a lack of internal know-how and trained experts that can work with data and monetize it. To quote Gartner again, at the last Gartner IT/Expo Symposium in October 2012 in Orlando, the firm issued a statement saying that 4.4m IT jobs would be created as a result of big data – that there would be a groundswell in career opportunities for data-savvy professionals. And for every IT job created, 3 other jobs will be created outside of IT, so that means that 13m jobs would be created. Wow. However, in the same breath, the point was also made that only 1.2m jobs could be fulfilled highlighting a distinct lack of trained professionals able to satisfy demand. In other words, only one out of every three jobs will be filled. It appears that data experts are a scarce and valuable commodity.
So what can be done? Some would argue that businesses need to satisfy their “big data” requirements by using easier-to-use tools and less complex applications. But that is a given, in fact every vendor with a “big data” solution would support that argument. The problem is not one that can only be solved with technology.
The answer to this challenge is in education. We need our schools, colleges and universities to create content and courses around the “big data” phenomenon. And we need to attract students to such courses, explaining their merits and the jobs that are out in the corporate world that can be filled as a result. While some students may go into further education to study generic topics such as “business studies”, others would be better off following deep-dive data-centric subjects and courses that would serve them better in the long run.
Offering training on the fundamentals of “big data” to those already in employment is also paramount. Businesses should start to educate their workforce and arm them with the tools and knowedge to become the next bastions of information-savvy and data-centric professionals. Many have already made reference to the evolution of the “chief digital officer” as the next departmental executive in business, but a CDO can only function if supported by a workforce made up of data-savvy professionals.
Staff retention and satisfaction will only improve if businesses choose to invest in their employees and arm them with skills and know-how that will serve both parties well tomorrow. In fact, nothing beats real-life working and hands-on experience. Likewise, businesses should make sure they’re doing their part to teach, explain and share knowledge with those just starting out in their careers. And potential employees have a part to play, too. They should think about how they can bear their creativity and insight at their employer, and help to unearth insight and information that they previously had never considered and that will serve to help the business.
We live in the digital information age where data volumes will only continue to get more complex and yet offer more value, so businesses should invest in talent as much as they do in the software and systems they’re using to cope with “big data”. In fact, the question for business executives is a simple one: “Are you prepared to help create the new “big data” experts of tomorrow?” If not, then you might find it that much harder to recruit the experts you need yoursevles for future business.